Saturday, January 8, 2011

My first taste of (and attempt at) South Asian food

Sorry for being gone so long. The second half of the semester was killer! I had no time to cook anything really good and then we went to Texas for Christmas, where I got a bit of a break from cooking and to enjoy my mother-in-law's amazing cooking!
Anyway, today's dish was inspired by one of my best friends. She's Pakistani and she recently posted a photo album with all the food she's been cooking with her mom. Her foods included hot and sour chicken corn soup, roghni naan (a kind of flat bread, this kind has sesame seeds), and spinach, potato and eggplant pakoras. I was interested to know what other kinds of food people in her neck of the woods might eat, so I researched it out a bit. One thing that caught my eye was Tandoori chicken, which I learned is a relatively new dish in the history of Southern Asia. The recipe was developed around the same time that India won its freedom and India and Pakistan split. I guess it's kind of the go-to dish in Indian restaurants, kind of like sweet and sour chicken or broccoli beef in Chinese food and teriyaki or sushi for Japanese food.
In terms of the food, traditionally it's cooked in an oven called a tandoori, which is usually used to cook naan. The guy who developed the recipe marinated his chicken for a while because he knew that the tandoori was too hot to cook regular chicken in without burning it. Eventually, he made it for some head honcho in the Indian government (I think it might have been the Prime Minister?) and they kind of declared it the offical food.
So I had the main dish down. Now I had to find side dishes to go with it. The first thing my search came up with was a recipe for naan. I knew I had plenty of time this weekend to make it since it's only the first week and I knew I wouldn't have too much homework. Which was good since the chicken takes at least 8 hours to marinate and the naan takes at least 2 hours to make.
I'm on a diet right now. I'm watching my portions, measuring EVERYTHING, and especially eating more fruits and veggies. So I had my protein covered and my carbs, and I needed some veggies. I knew I had some extra cucumber in the fridge, so I searched for more Indian side dishes. What I came up with was a Cucumber and Peanut salad. It's especially good when combined with a bite of chicken! Anyway, sorry there are no pictures this time! Here are the recipes and accompanying nutritional information! Happy cooking!

Tandoori Chicken
1 (3lb) chicken, cut into serving pieces, skinned and trimmed of all visible fat
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp peeled and grated or crushed ginger root (I used ground ginger)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika (for the characteristic red color)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I used 1 tsp of Franks hot sauce)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt or to taste
vegetable oil
red food coloring (optional)
Prick the the flesh of the chicken all over with a fork. Then, using a sharp knife, cut slashes in the flesh to allow the marinade to penetrate. Place the chicken in a nonreactive, large, shallow dish.
In a nonreactive bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice or vinegar, garlic, ginger, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and salt. Stir until well-mixed, then pour the mixture over the chicken and rub it into the flesh, turning the chicken several times. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. (Do not marinate for longer than 2 days.) Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.
The chicken may be grilled or roasted. If using a charcoal grill, prepare a fire for direct-heat cooking. Position the grill rack 5 inches from the fire. Allow the coals to burn until white ash covers them and the heat is moderate.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, pressing lightly to extract excess marinade, and brush with oil. Place the chicken pieces on a well-oiled grill rack and; grill, covered, with the vents open, turning 3 or 4 times, 45 minutes or until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife.
If roasting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, brush with oil, and cook, turning once, 25 to 30 minutes until the juices run clear when a piece is pierced near the bone with a knife.
Serve with sprigs of cilantro and slices of cucumber, red onion, tomato, and lemon.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving: 303 calories, 33 percent calories from fat, 45 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, .54 gram total fiber, 11 grams total fat, 124 milligrams cholesterol, 707 milligrams sodium.

Naan (4 servings)
All the reviewers said that this was the best they'd had and I think Josh agreed. I certainly did!
1 1/2 tsps dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsps sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
6 tbsps ghee (clarified butter)
3 tbsps yoghurt
3 teaspoons onion seeds (I sprinkled onion powder on my first batch and garlic salt on my second. We liked the garlic salt better, but the onion powder was great too!)
Add the dry yeast and sugar to the warm water and stir till the yeast is dissolved. Cover and leave aside for 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to froth. This indicates the yeast is active. Keep aside.
Mix the flour and salt to taste and sift through a very fine seive. Put it into a large mixing bowl and now add the yeast mixture, 3 tbsps of ghee and all the yogurt.
Use your fingertips to mix all this into a soft dough. Once mixed, flour a clean, flat surface (like your kitchen counter) and knead the dough till it is smooth and stretchy (elastic).
Grease a large bowl with a few drops of cooking oil and put the dough in it. Cover and allow to rest for about 90 minutes or till the dough doubles in volume.
Punch the dough down and knead again for 10 minutes.
Equally divide the dough and roll between your palms to form 8 round balls.
Lightly flour the same surface on which you kneaded the dough and roll out each ball until you have a circle, 7-8 inches in diameter (1/2 "thick). Gently pull on one edge of the circle to form the Naan into a teardrop shape. Do not pull too hard or you may tear the Naan. Instead of rolling the dough out (with a rolling pin) you can also pat it into a circle with your hands.
Preheat your oven 200 C/ 400 F or Gas Mark 6.
Lay a piece of aluminum foil in an oven tray (to cover) and grease it lightly with a few drops of cooking oil.
Place as many Naans as will fit without touching each other, on the tray.
Brush each Naan with some ghee and sprinkle a pinch of onion seeds all over its surface.
Put the tray into the oven and cook till the Naan begins to puff out and get lightly brown. Flip the Naan and repeat.
Remove from oven and serve hot in a foil-lined basket.
Serving size 2 naan: Calories 78, Calories from fat 19, Total Fat 2.1g, Total Carbohydrates 11.5g, Protein 3.4g

Cucumber Peanut Salad (serves 2)
1 large cucumbers - peeled, seeded, and diced
salt to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 dried red chile pepper or 1/2 tsp chili powder
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped peanuts
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro
1.Mix together salt and cucumber, and allow to drain in a colander for ten minutes to release water. Pat dry, and place in a medium size bowl.
2.Melt butter in a small saucepan, and stir in cumin and chili pepper.
3.Add peanuts, lemon juice, sugar, and melted butter to cucumber, and stir together. Garnish with cilantro.
Nutritional Information
Amount Per Serving Calories: 165 Total Fat: 12.8g Cholesterol: 15mg